Eric Schroeder: Enriched grains deserve more than a passing reference

by Eric Schroeder
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Seventeen seconds. During the final meeting of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a total of 17 seconds was devoted to discussion of enriched grains. That’s out of a 15-minute discussion of grains and fiber and the total meeting duration of 4 hours 46 minutes.

“Enriched and fortified grains provide important nutrients; hence, individuals are encouraged to consume grains as both fiber-rich whole grains and enriched grains,” the group said. “To ensure nutrient adequacy, especially for folate, individuals who consume all of their grains as whole grains should include some that have been fortified with folic acid.”

To be sure, there are plenty of positives in this statement. The importance of enriched grains is acknowledged and snide references to “refined grains” present in the 2005 edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are gone. Additionally, it would be difficult to blame those in the industry who say, “It’s better that they only talked for 17 seconds because the alternative probably would be a lengthy bashing of white flour.”

That may be, but for a public confused about what to eat and what not to eat, the scientists on the committee need to elaborate on the importance of oft-maligned enriched grains, the leading source of micronutrients in the United States.

Yes, most consumers currently eat enough enriched grains and not enough whole grains, but amid continuing negative press, many do not, many others are seriously questioning the value of enriched grains and may be giving thoughts toward avoidance. The D.G.A.C. is supposed to nudge the population toward better eating but with an eye toward practical suggestions. With 95%-plus of grains in the United States consumed as enriched rather than whole grains, does it really make sense for the committee to spend 98.1% of its grains/fiber discussion on whole grains?

From a scientific community dedicated to optimizing public health, enriched grains deserve more than a passing, under-their-breath reference.

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